Appeal: Denial of Robert Goworek’s FPIC Application

Docket No. A-2399-21

Decided March 1, 2024

In the Matter of the Appeal of the Denial of Robert Goworek’s Application for a FPIC

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided petitioner, Robert Goworek’s appeal from a January 2022 Law Division order denying his appeal from a police chief’s denial of his application for a replacement firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC) and three handgun purchase permits, and granting the State’s motion to compel the sale of the firearms he already owned. Petitioner also appeals a February 2022 Law Division order denying his motion for reconsideration.

After a hearing, the trial court rejected the State’s contention that petitioner knowingly falsified his application, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(3). The court also rejected the State’s argument that issuance of the FPIC and purchase permits “would not be in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare,” N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(5). The trial court did determine, however, that petitioner was ineligible for an FPIC or purchase permit pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(1) because he was previously convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York. That out of state conviction was the sole reason for the trial court’s conclusion that petitioner was not eligible to possess a firearm. Petitioner subsequently appealed.

On appeal, the State conceded N.J.S.A. 2C:44-4(c) was amended shortly before the hearing so that only a prior out-of-state conviction with a sentence in excess of one year could be a basis for disqualification under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(1). There is no dispute that the New York DWI offense which petitioner was convicted of has a maximum sentence of one year. Therefore, that conviction cannot serve as the basis for disqualifying the petitioner from obtaining or possessing a firearm. The State acknowledged that the Law Division order denying petitioner’s application and revoking his FPIC must be reversed and vacated.

The petitioner had previously possessed a FPIC, he applied for a new one because his address changed. He also applied for three handgun purchase permits. In April 2021, the Chief of the Oakland Police Department denied the applications because of petitioner’s 1994 DWI conviction in New York State. After the petitioner appealed to the Law Division, the State filed a cross-motion seeking to revoke petitioner’s existing FPIC and to compel the sale of his existing firearms. After the January 6, 2022 hearing, the trial court denied petitioner’s appeal and granted the State’s motion to revoke his existing FPIC and compel the sale of his firearms because he had previously been convicted of a crime. On January 10, 2022, the trial court issued an order granting the State’s application to compel the sale of petitioner’s firearms predicated on the denial of his appeal. The trial court also ordered the petitioner to arrange for the sale of his firearms with a Federal Firearms License dealer within 120 days. If he did not arrange for a sale, the firearms would be subject to destruction. Petitioner then moved for reconsideration, which the trial court denied at a February 28, 2022 hearing. The petitioner then appealed once again to the Appellate Division.

On appeal to the Appellate Division, petitioner contended that the trial court erred when it ordered the compelled sale of firearms that appellant already owns or possesses; the court below erred by ordering a forfeiture of firearms pursuant to no statute authorizing forfeiture of firearms; the court below erred because N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(f) provides no basis to compel sale (i.e., forfeiture) of firearms; the compelled sale of petitioner’s firearms by the court below constitutes an unconstitutional seizure; the court below erred by failing to allow the jury trial demanded by petitioner pursuant to [State of New Jersey v.] [O]ne 1990 Honda Accord, [154 N.J. 373 (1988)] regarding the forfeiture of his property; per N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3[(d)], “no filing fee shall be required” for firearm permit appeals, and appellant should be reimbursed the filing fee that was demanded of him.

The Appellate Court of New Jersey ultimately determined that trial court’s order denying petitioner’s application and revoking his FPIC had to be reversed and vacated. Here, it was undisputed that the maximum sentence for petitioner’s New York DWI offense was one year. As a result, that conviction could not serve as the basis for disqualifying petitioner from obtaining or possessing a firearm in New Jersey. Similarly, where petitioner was not convicted of a crime within the meaning of the pertinent statute, there was no basis for ordering him to forfeit his currently-owned firearms, although it appeared the issue had become moot because petitioner had since transferred his guns to a licensed firearms dealer. The Appellate Court refused, however, to burden petitioner with an order lacking any lawful basis. Thus, the trial court’s order denying petitioner’s application and revoking his FPIC was reversed and vacated, as did trial court’s order that petitioner divest himself of his firearms. Accordingly, the matter was reversed and remanded.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to appealing a police chief’s denial of an application for a firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC) and/or handgun purchase permits. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the petitioner in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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